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2016 in Review, A Few Updates, and Looking Forward

By: on December 30, 2016 in Book, Classroom, PASS Summit, SQL Server 2008, SQL Server 2008 R2, SQL Server 2016, SQL Server V.Next, Teaching, Virtualization, Vmware, Whitepaper, Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2016

Hello, everyone. Can you believe 2017 will be here in just a few days? 2016 seemed to fly by. It’s been quite a year. I wanted to take the time in my final blog post of the year to recap some of what has happened, talk about some stuff that is coming, and update you on some stuff, too.

The Elephant in the Room

There is the matter of the book. As many of you are (as well as I am) painfully aware, I officially announced in 2013. A lot has happened both personally and professionally between then and now. One thing I haven’t talked about but came to a head in late 2015 was my health. Without getting into specific details, from January of 2014 until almost the end of 2015, I was not in good shape. I hurt myself and over time, it got to the point where the pain was so bad I basically couldn’t sit, stand, or lay down without pain. I am a non-“medicate yourself” person, so I didn’t take anything for it. I tried to soldier through it. That was a huge mistake.

I can tell you that the amount of time I spend on the road speaking and going to customers didn’t help, either. There was just no time to stop and get off the road due to work commitments. Schlepping luggage, airplane seats, and everything else exacerbated what was going on. I was shattered by the time I hit hotel rooms. It didn’t help that my hand was also messed up as well which not only affected my ability to type but also my ability to play bass. Since I couldn’t stop using my dominant hand, that took about seven months to heal.

I did my best to put a brave face on things publicly, but if you saw me at PASS Summit 2015, you would have seen me at my low point in terms of how I was feeling. It was hard to miss the Leaning Tower of Allan. Right after PASS Summit, I went back to the doctor and spent the rest of the year and the first few months of 2016 in physical therapy. Luckily for the first time in nearly two years I had contiguous time I could deal with what was going on with me. Knock on proverbial wood, physical therapy took care of things and to date, I feel great. I haven’t felt this healthy in years. If you saw me at PASS Summit this year, it was clearly night and day.

What does that have to do with the book? Needless to say, as time dragged on, it became harder and harder for me to get my normal work done, let alone sit for hours on top of that writing. I’m not looking for a pity party or sympathy, nor am I absolving myself of anything book related, but anyone who has experienced excruciating pain to the point of it being debilitating knows what I am talking about. I’m not active/active, you know. All kidding aside, don’t be a martyr like me if you’re feeling bad: take care of it. I let things go to the point where I had no choice and if physical therapy did not work, surgery may have been something I needed to explore. Quality of life became a very real issue. To put a capper on 2016, I’m just getting over bronchitis which has sidelined me for a good portion of December.

So where does that leave things? I’m back on track despite the bronchitis. My spare time over the past few months (which hasn’t been much – we’ve been slammed with the day job which isn’t 9 to 5 …) has been spent working on the book and should really, truly be content complete over the next little while barring any unforeseen problems.

Before anyone asks, the book will still be covering SQL Server 2008 R2 especially because Microsoft recently announced that they are (unfortunately) now giving the super duper paid extended support option (Premium Assurance – see this and this) which gives up to 16 years of paid support on that as well as Windows Server 2008 R2. It makes what I’m doing more vital than ever since I’m crossing all the major versions of SQL Server and Windows Server. I’ve also made some other hard choices as to what will/will not be in the book:

  • SQL Server 2016 and Windows Server 2016 are now in scope
  • Yes, there will be public cloud-related content – not just on premises/physical stuff
  • SQL Server v.Next – including SQL Server on Linux – is not in scope. This will be part of the first major update to the book, timeframe TBD since we have no release date for v.Next. If you haven’t been paying attention, the paint is barely dry on SQL Server 2016 and we already have CTPs of v.Next (as of the writing of this blog, we’re up to 1.1).

I’ll wrap up this section with this thought: I never intended for things to go this way. I not only thought I’d be done, but I’d be on the updates by now. The road of good intention wound up being full of potholes which bent my rims and threw my car out of alignment. As I have mentioned before, my 2005 book which was much smaller in scope and size, took 3 years. I’m not happy about the circumstances, but there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. They say what does not kill you makes you stronger, right? Again, I’ll reiterate – don’t let health issues build up. Take care of yourself.

Let’s Talk PASS Summit 2016

Once I took care of my health, 2016 really took a big upswing. Besides all of the customer work we did which hasn’t slowed down, some of the highlights of the year included teaching in Australia, precons at SQL Nexus in Copenhagen and SQLBits in the UK, speaking at VMworld in Las Vegas, and the capper of them all: PASS Summit 2016.

I’m very fortunate that I have presented at PASS Summit most years and have had a preconference session for quite a few of the ones in recent memory. I was the first to introduce live labs three years ago and try to push the envelope each time my abstracts are accepted. I am glad PASS took a chance on me then – we had no idea how it would play out – and three years later, it keeps getting bigger and better. By now, we have a lot of the logistics stuff down pat since I keep getting selected. Let me be clear – I don’t assume I’ll get a precon because there are no guarantees. I know I’m lucky.

As with the previous years, we talked about capping the number who could sign up at around 100. There are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is making sure that I have enough proctors (i.e. things are manageable) and the convention center can handle the bandwidth needed. Much to my surprise, at one point when I checked in they had sold over 100 seats – PASS forgot to cap it. We then decided to cap it around 110. People still wanted to sign up, so we upped it to 120. Finally we said the heck with it, and filled the room (capacity: 136).

An additional 36 people does not sound like a lot of people, but from a backend and management perspective, it is. I’ve never done anything that big with labs. I had to talk to the folks hosting the VMs since everyone gets their own set (i.e. hundreds of VMs – not a small backend to have to account for), we conferred with the convention center, and on it went. I had so many people come up to me before and during PASS Summit telling me they wish they could have gotten in – as far as I know, I think I was the only sold out one on Monday (can’t speak for Tuesday). No pressure, right? I remember one encounter going down the elevator at the Hyatt heading over the morning of the precon. One of the conference attendees saw my badge and made the association. He mentioned how he wanted to get in but couldn’t. I mean, what can you say? I’m flattered and humbled by that demand. I never take any of this for granted, and would give the same energy if one person showed up or that sold out room of 136.

Things went off with only minor issues (power, which we took care of in a break; same issue as last year), and it was awesome to see that many people doing labs at once. I snapped this picture during the day.

Figure 1. 136 people doing labs. Glorious!

I also had a half day session on what was new for availability in both SQL Server 2016 and Windows Server 2016. It was an expanded version of a talk I had been doing for over a year, aided by the fact that Windows Server 2016 had just been released so I could demo things I couldn’t before. I had no idea what room I was in, and thought there may be some interest, but there were many good sessions at the same time. Much to my surprise – on the last day of PASS Summit no less – I was in a huge room (400+), and nearly every seat was filled for most of it. Below is a picture of one side as the room was starting to fill. I’d have to look at years past, but it may have been one of the biggest rooms I’ve talked in, and definitely one of the most full. Again, no pressure – just hundreds of people who can skewer you if you suck. Luckily that didn’t happen. I had my best scores ever for a PASS Summit for both the half day and the precon. No complaints, and I can’t say enough how good of an event PASS Summit was – and not just for me.

Figure 2. Room filling up for my half day session

 

VMware Whitepapers

In addition to contributing to and reviewing this whitepaper from VMware, I wrote one entitled “Planning Highly Available, Mission Critical SQL Server Deployments with VMware vSphere” that was published in November. I didn’t blog about it, and some of you may have missed it. It was my first real return to writing released publicly in a long time. It’s not marketing fluff, and hope you find it useful.

Dual Microsoft MVP

One of the things I am very proud of is that back in July, I was not only re-awarded as a Data Center & Cloud Management (aka Windows Server nee Cluster) MVP, but I was also awarded as a Data Platform (aka SQL Server) MVP. There are other Dual Microsoft MVPs, but it’s nice to be recognized for the two things I do day in and day out.

Selected 2016 Numbers

0 – The number of laptops purchased by me in 2016. Yes, I’m still using the Vaio Z Canvas I got from Japan in June of 2015. More than 18 months is uncharted territory!

3 – The number of noise cancelling headphones employed by me this year. I got two new pair of headphones for travel at the end of the year. We’ll see which one stays. The old pair I used has already not made it back. One of these days I’ll do a blog post on what to consider for noise cancelling headphones.

4 – The number of bottles of Goober Grape I polished off this year.

5 – The number of countries I visited. Besides the USA, I was in these countries: Australia, Bulgaria, China, Denmark, and the UK.

45 – The number of flights I was on and how old I turned this fall.

100,000 – The approximate number of miles I spent in the air this year.

Too many – the number of (in)famous and influential people (not just entertainment folks) who died.

Training, Events, and Public Speaking in 2017

2017 is already shaping up to be a busy year. I’ll be back in the UK for two weeks at the end of March and early April teaching my 4-day Mission Critical SQL Server class in London via Technitrain and then it’s SQLBits 2017, where I’ll also be delivering a Training Day on April 6th.  I will also most likely be speaking at the London SQL Server User Group again the week I’m teaching my class. Register early – both the class and the Training Day are likely to be sold out!

I’ve submitted for a few SQL Saturdays (I usually do about a half dozen a year, give or take), and as those are confirmed, those will be added to the schedule. A few User Groups have approached me, so I’m trying to slot those in as well. Get your requests in early! I’m hope to speak again at VMworld (fingers crossed), and will of course, submit to PASS Summit again.

I’m still working on additional public dates (besides London) for my classes, and should have them nailed down in the next few weeks. Once that’s done, they’ll be posted and we’ll run a special. Stay tuned! In the meantime, if you need some training and would prefer us to come onsite, don’t hesitate to reach out. Get on our schedule early before it’s filled up.

A Note of Thanks

Whether you attended one of my classes or preconference sessions, saw me speak in person or online, read some of my writings, or more sometime this year – including reaching out to me asking where the book is even if you’re annoyed at me – thank you. I do not take anyone for granted and without you, none of what I do is really possible.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special thanks to my longtime friend and business partner, Max Myrick. 2016 was SQLHA’s best year yet.

Whew!

I only covered some of what happened. 2016 was a quite the year personally and professionally, and 2017 is looking better. I hope to see many of you next year, be it in person or online. Happy New Year!


7 Responses

  1. Wishing you good health for 2017!

    If I make it to PASS Summit in 2017 and you are doing the labs pre-con again, I would gladly volunteer to sit in as a helper to assist people with some of their issues they experience to take some of the light-work off of your hands. Assuming I’m not doing a pre-con the same day as you, of course. 🙂

    • Allan Hirt says:

      Thanks, Robert. I wish you a happy, healthy 2017 as well!

      And if I get a precon in 2017, I may just take you up on it if you’re not up against me 🙂

  2. […] UPDATE – December, 2016 – see  this blog post […]

  3. Cujo says:

    Thanks for the update. I hope there will be an SQL Saturday this year in Manhattan and I can introduce myself (again).

  4. Cujo says:

    Just checked, there will be one on May 20th, 2017 at Microsoft. Hope to see you there.

  5. Burt King says:

    Grateful for your candid tackling of this issue. Wishing you the best and looking forward to reading more of your work.

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